We have seen a recent, and somewhat strange trend in recent years in relation to wine in a can.
According to Nielsen data of off-premise sales published in July, canned wine sales in the U.S. grew 125.2 percent in value in the 52 weeks ending June 18, 2016, with sales at $14.5 million, up from $6.4 million the previous year.
While consumers have been trying sparkling wine in cans for over a decade—bubbly drinks in cans are more familiar—canned table wines have only found their place in the past year. Off-premise sales hit $6.8 million in the past 12 months, a whiplash-inducing 1,014.5 percent growth over the prior year.
"When we first launched [cans, in 2011], there was definitely consumer resistance," said Ben Parsons, owner and winemaker of Denver winery The Infinite Monkey Theorem. "Only at the end of 2014 did it really start to take off. That's because we got calls from buyers like Whole Foods." Almost overnight, the brand went from a local urban winery to a 42-state presence, selling the canned equivalent of almost 40,000 cases in 2015 and inking a deal with Frontier Airlines.
Every canned winemaker interviewed by Wine Spectator said canned wines' most attractive and obvious benefit is versatility. That was the goal when Francis Ford Coppola Winery introduced the first modern American canned wine, the "Sofia Mini" fizz, in the early 2000s. Winery president and director Corey Beck recalled, "Around 2000, Francis came to us and said, 'You know, the thing that always gets me about the wine business is that it's very difficult to buy a single serving. You can go in and buy a can of Pepsi or a can of Budweiser, but you can't buy just a can of wine.'"
"When you're knocking out your honey-do list, out in the garden, manning the grill, poolside, when you're going out on the boat, going to a picnic and just want to dump a case in your cooler," is how Graham Veysey, who launched Mancan in Cleveland in 2015, described cans' utility. It also makes sense at bottle-unfriendly venues like outdoor parties, concerts and theaters.
Another major benefit of aluminum cans is environmental. According to the Container Recycling Institute, aluminum cans are recycled 45.2 percent of the time in the U.S., glass bottles 27.8 percent. Many localities don't accept glass for recycling. Even the carbon footprint of shipping the wine is reduced: The same amount of wine weighs less in aluminum than in glass.
Why is canned wine having its moment now? Undeniably, demographics play a major role. Younger consumers have demonstrated a willingness to try unfamiliar wine styles and containers. According to Mehra's internal research, when polled on whether they'd try wine in a can on a 1 to 10 scale, under-42s averaged "in the 8s"; over-50 consumers fell under 3.